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Goldie and Goldette might be at home collecting CERB, but that doesn’t mean their office is sitting empty these days.
Take a stroll down Waterfront Drive and you’ll still hear the crack of a bat at Shaw Park — even though the Winnipeg Goldeyes are based out of Fargo, N.D., this summer.
The downtown diamond has been getting plenty of use lately as local baseball teams of all levels have been taking the field and getting a small taste of what it’s like to be a pro. Friday afternoon saw a doubleheader between Team Manitoba’s women’s provincial team and the under-18 La Broquerie A’s boys’ team.
While it’s definitely not the same, nor is it a moneymaker, as all the fees go toward covering operating costs, Goldeyes general manager Andrew Collier said it’s nice he can now leave his office and see people enjoy the ballpark. Shaw Park, which opened its doors to games in mid-July, will see between 30 and 40 games this summer. In a normal year, the Goldeyes play 50 regular-season games at home.
"We redid the entire infield grass. We tore it out last fall, that’s why it’s so green. So, we tore it out, we resodded it, and in May and June I would walk around in the outfield and look back and it was just a shame for such a great ballpark to be sitting here empty," Collier said.
"When it was announced Baseball Manitoba was given the go-ahead to return to play, then it all started to fall together and some of these games where they’re playing at other places could be played here."
Three sections are open in the stands for fans to take in the action while maintaining a safe distance. Collier said they’ve been averaging between 120-180 spectators, some of which aren’t even family members of the players as there are people in town who are starving for some live baseball of any kind. But of course, the people who appreciate it the most are the players.
"We had a 13-under team on Wednesday and you could just see the look on their faces when they ran out there to play. It’s been good for everybody. It’s good for Baseball Manitoba to provide this opportunity and who knows, maybe down the road we’ll see one of these players in a Goldeyes uniform," Collier said.
The provincial women’s team captured a bronze medal at nationals last year, but unfortunately, the highlight of this summer will be a couple of exhibition games at Shaw Park. This year’s nationals were given the axe owing to COVID-19. To prepare for next season, the team used Friday as a way to help determine the 2021 squad. The team will play another doubleheader on Sunday starting at noon.
"It definitely sucks. This will be the first year in I don’t know how many years where we haven’t had nationals," said 21-year-old Katie Heppner of Winkler, who was playing shortstop in Friday’s opener, where they lost 13-0.
"I’ve been doing this since I was 14, so this will be the first year without nationals, so that’s going to be weird, but it happens."
The provincial team got to play at Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton Park, the 10,000-seat home of the Ottawa Champions, last summer, but head coach Jeremy Culleton said this week’s games mean even more. Once they got word nationals was off the table, Culleton gave Collier a call in hopes of finding a way to still make 2020 special.
"We said ‘You know what, this is what our season looks like. We’re going to have some open camp dates and work with the girls a little bit and then we’re going to play four games. Whoever can make it, we’ll get you into some games and we’ll play at Shaw Park which will be a great experience.’ They were really excited," Culleton said.
"Even the girls that played at the Champions stadium last year were like ‘Finally.’ So, this is a really big deal."
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.
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